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Hidalgo County commissioners vote to begin the release of CARES funding to cities

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Federal funds entangled in bureaucratic disagreements between county and city leaders in Hidalgo County will soon be released as a result of a unanimous measure approved Tuesday afternoon.

Hidalgo County Commissioners voted to amend the inter-local agreements cities need to sign to receive Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding.

"As soon as they take it to their governments, and their government approves it and they sign it. They bring it back to my office and I sign it. Then, we start cutting checks," Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez said.

The county received nearly $152 million to help cover expenses related to the coronavirus response.

Distribution of funds was on hold as cities disagreed with the county's initial decision to divide it based on population. The decision would yield less money for smaller municipalities than its most populous counterparts.

On June 2, the county agreed to change the amount to an even $132 per resident, with $18 of each to be set aside for emergency funding for each city.

Earlier in the week, commissioners allowed cities a 24-hour period to suggest changes to the inter-local agreement. Those changes were then discussed in executive session during Thursday's meeting. When commissioners rejoined the publicly-streamed meeting, they voted to approve the proposed changes.

"They were not substantive changes, but changes to make it better. We approved it, and we're going to finalize it today and get it to the hands of all the municipalities," Cortez said.

Once the municipalities enter the agreements, they will be eligible to receive funds immediately.

"Basically, the agreements says that we can give them an advance of 20% of the allotted amount of money that we have agreed to allot them. And, that's going to be on the basis of $114 per person. As you recall, we put on reserve, 10% of the total funds. Those funds won't be available under September 1," Cortez said.

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